Liberals Can’t Read Graphs

When I was a math student, and then again when I was studying social science, they taught me the principles of making and reading data graphs. When it comes to x-y line graphs, the basic idea is simple. The lines must take the best mathematical fit to the points that represent the known information, and judging trends is mostly a matter to reading the slant of the lines.

So, dig this very important graph, taken from Timothy Noah’s series on income inequality in the United States:

income chart

Notice how liberals like Mr. Noah read this: They describe the period from 1941 to 1979 as “The Great Compression.”

Now, look once again at the graph. During what period is there ever a downward-sloping trend line? A pre-schooler would see it immediately: 1941-1945 only.

That was when events required sanity and capitalists were subordinated to the public will and public good. Taxes on high incomes were almost rational (there was no income cap, as there should be), and the public dictated economic priorities.

From 1945 to 1979, the trend line is utterly flat, meaning that income inequality was staying the same, not compressing.

So, why do liberals always define “The Great Compression” as lasting until 1979? Because they are in the business of making excuses for corporate capitalism, which never does anything to equalize income and wealth. (And neither do liberals, by the way.)

What we need is a left that embraces and promises a modern, ecologically-centered version of the U.S. economy of 1941-1945.

2 Replies to “Liberals Can’t Read Graphs”

  1. This posting cuts right to the core of the past half century. Wages had to be paid to create war material, which won the war in the end, not American casualties ? which were laughingly trivial compared to those of the other main belligerents. This created a huge economic pie, but the new-won, overwhelming global hegemony ironically created the opportunity to throw away the workers who’d brought about ‘the American Century’.

  2. Yes, and while the liberals try to credit capitalists for the stasis of the first few post-war decades, conservatives simply refuse even to look at the actual evidence, while telling stories that directly contradict it.

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